Yesterday was difficult. I got a call informing me that an older member of our church had fallen and was in the hospital about5 40 minutes away. My wife and I went and visited, the member is being monitored closely since they passed out, fell and hit their hit hard. They were in reasonable spirits but had some significant restrictions for a while. I went straight to the funeral home for the visitation for the 15 year who died in the house fire (see earlier posts) on Saturday. Wow, that was tough. Long line, many students, many tears and a lot stunned people. All expected, but still tough. I can't really imagine the emotions the parents and family feels. Talked with a few students through the tears.
I then came right to church to finish getting ready for our Wednesday night church activities. I checked my emails and found out that another of our church members' father died suddenly while I was gone. Wow!
Got ready, did my Bible Study, talked with people after the Bible Study, called the member who lost their father, went to a meeting and got home about 9:45 pm.
A lot of emotions, a lot of questions and not a lot of sleep.
Keep praying. Will be attending the private funeral for the 19 year old who died in the fire this afternoon.
Keep praying for these families. Wow!
This has been, and will continue to be, a very busy week. With funeral visitations, counseling as a result of sudden deaths, and this in the midst of other regular stuff such as Wednesday night Bible Study, Sunday School lesson, Sermon preparation and small group lesson. Such is the life of a pastor.
Interesting in dealing with 4 deaths ranging in age from 16, to 19, to 50, to 78 and that 2 of them were sudden and shocking and 2 of them were anticipated. There are so many emotions that come out at the loss of a loved one and helping people sort through and them is so important.
Here's hoping that God will give you the words to minister to those in circle as they go through difficult times and that you will pray for those going through these agonizing times.
Thanks for praying.
Monday Morning Musings...
Yesterday was a difficult (see previous post) and a very positive day. The difficult part had to do with the death of the two young people I posted about yesterday, also a young man in our church lost his grandfather on Saturday and a very good college friend of mine lost his wife due to a brain tumor on Sunday morning as well. So, you can see that their were a lot of churning emotions in the midst of teaching Sunday School, preaching and leading a small group. Such is the duty of a pastor at times.
Our time of singing in worship went well and given all of the recent developments their was a really sense of urgency in our worship. In the series on relationships this message was "Yes You Can ... Be Forgiven". The focus was on accepting forgiveness from God and from others with whom you are in relationship. We had a powerful drama that looked at how many people struggle with God's forgiveness because of the conditions so many people put on their love and forgiveness. Then we transfer that to our concept of God and have trouble accepting God's forgiveness.
Their was a time for response to accepting God's forgiveness or the forgiveness of others. Their were several who responded by coming forward. A powerful moment was a father and son coming to the altar.
We had a surprisingly good attendance, surprising given there were at least 25% of last weeks attendees who I knew would be gone for the holiday weekend. I was encouraged by the attendance all things considered. We had very good attendance in our small group last night and even had a new person. Last week we had better discussion but it was still positive.
My wife and I also went to a graduation open house in the afternoon. It was for a volleyball player, she played varsity and I was the junior varsity coach, so being invited was another encouraging sign for making inroads into our community.
Please pray for those who have lost loved ones.
This weekend was a real struggle. Yesterday morning I received a phone call informing me that there had been a tragic house fire in our town. There were two young people who did not make it out of the house alive. Several other family members received burns and needed medical attention. The two that died in the fire were connected to our church. One a young man who just finished his freshman year of college was a regular in our youth group and came to church some on Sundays. He was just in worship during his spring break. The other was a girl who was still in High School and visited our youth group a couple of times. Both of them were very active in High School and were on the track team.
The overwhelming feeling of shock and aching for the parents and siblings has not really eased in the hours since hearing the news. The family of the young man wants the funeral to be in our church and myself or my associate pastor will likely participate in the service.
Please pray for the families. Pray for students in our High School, especially as they return to classes on Tuesday. An empty desk in each class the young lady normally attended will be a grim reminder to everyone of the this tragedy. Pray for our church as we minister to these families. Pray for my associate and myself as we minister to many people during this time and if we participate in funeral. Pray for the firefighters who battled the blaze and recovered the bodies. 4 of the young men are part of our church (including my associate pastor) and all of them are volunteers and each of them knew the two who died.
What burden are you carrying? I have been asking myself that question that past couple of days. The question was somewhat prompted by my response to some things recently, which led to me wondering why I was so bothered by something. That led to me realizing that I was bothered because of a burden that I am, and regularly, carry.
Have you ever asked what burdens you? I don't mean what annoys you (cell phones ringing at inappropriate times is high on my list), but rather what weighs heavy on your heart, what brings tears to your eyes when you think about it, what wakes you up at night because of it's importance?
For me, there are some things that just overwhelm me because of the burden.
One of those for me is the lostness of people. To work with people who are not followers of Christ, at times to see them hurting and grasping at everything but Christ just tears me up.
Another is to see those who claim to be following Christ but are unwilling to grow in that relationship and appear to be trying to do the minimum and seem satisfied.
Another is to see a church that is satisfied when they are not reaching new people, are not impacting their community and are not seeing people move ahead in the process of becoming more Christlike.
Another is ... well I am out of time for this post. But I am curious, what burdens you?
Monday Morning Musings ...
Yesterday was a busy and wonderful day. The opportunity to share in the Baccalaureate service of our local High School was humbling and encouraging. Watching the graduation and seeing so many students that I have gotten to know in the past 3 years was fun. I was encouraged by how many of the students I know personally and several others that I at least know who they are, since I have been in the community just under 3 years. Seeing the joy, and fear on the faces of the parents is always an intriguing study in human nature to me.
Worship was very good this morning. There was an outstanding spirit in the service. The congregation seemed to really get into participating in the music and prayer times. They seemed to be paying close attention during the sermon as well. We honored our High School graduates and my Associate Pastor did an excellent job of sharing and praying a blessing over the graduates with family gathered around. My wife again shared in the message as we did week 2 of a 6 part series on relationships entitled "Yes You Can...Have Healthy Relationships". This week focused on being a leader in our relationships, not just following whoever, whenever and wherever. But rather following, and being a, good example in relationships. Have the right attitude, of caring and setting aside our personal desires for the good of the relationship without compromising what we know is right.
The attendance was outstanding again this Sunday. The first 3 Sundays of this month have been strong in worship attendance. Two weeks in a row someone who was visiting family and is familiar with our church commented to me about how attendance is growing. It is nice to see it and to hear that it is being noticed. It is not dramatic, at least not by my standards, but it is moving in the right direction. The spiritual atmosphere and growth in relationship is the most important thing, but if that is happening then we should be attracting more people to Christ and that is beginning to happen.
Last night we had our first of 4 weeks of small groups focusing on our series about relationships. The group that I was a part of was very good and really encouraged me. The reports from the other groups has been good and the attendance was very good. I am looking forward to the next few weeks of this series.
Here's hoping you are being a good example for someone and that you have someone you can look to as a good example in relationships.
What I Said ...
The Baccalaureate was this afternoon. As I posted earlier this week, I was asked to do the welcome, pray the opening and closing prayers. So I had just a few precious moments to say something of an impact. This is a time of special memories for the students and the parents and grandparents who were in attendance. This is an event that precedes the actual graduation ceremony by just a short period of time.
I reminded the graduates that it was not that long ago they imagined the day of getting their driver's license, of becoming Seniors and of graduating High School. I invited them to once again imagine, this time to imagine the future, a future of hope. I then shared Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give hope and a future." Then I told them to remember that the God who created them had plans for them. That these plans were for their future, a future of hope and that they needed to move forward with this knowledge and imagine their hopeful future.
There you have it, a minute or two and hopefully some of them will remember the thoughts in the future. That at some point when they begin to doubt the future and whether or not they can contribute anything, they will recall that God created them for a purpose and pursue it.
Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. It was a positive experience and I had the opportunity to speak with a few different family members after the event.
Less Than I Thought
No, I am not talking about my IQ. I just realized that I will have less time than I thought at the Baccalaureate. I have the Welcome (which means opening comments), the invocation and the benediction. So I am calculating that I have 3 minutes max. So the pressure is really on.
No, I won't try to sneak part of a message in during one of the prayers.
It is still an honor because the students are the ones who called and the particular student is one who played volleyball so I must not have left too bad of an impression while coaching last year.
I still want to hear from you.
What Would You Say?
I have been asked to speak at our local High School's Baccalaureate this Sunday afternoon. That got me to wondering, what would you say if you got the chance to address yourself before you graduated? Or, what would you like to say if you got the chance to speak to high school graduates right now?
Maybe I can use some of your thoughts in my talk this Sunday. Let me know what you think.
The pressure is on for this one. For a couple of reasons. One, the students themselves put this together and it was a student who called and asked me to speak. That means I can't screw it up or I am toast with all the other students in the future. Second, I have said for some years now that if I ever got the chance to speak a graduation that I would make it short. Because I know that the students, and especially their families, didn't come to hear the speaker. Students come because that is how they get their diploma and their parents and grandparents want to see them get the diploma. The families come to see their loved one up front getting recognized and they want some good photos (yes I realize that for some younger siblings they are coming because mom and dad made them come). The Faculty didn't come to hear the speaker either, so basically the only people who came to hear the speaker are the speaker and any of the speaker's family who attend.
So I have to be interesting and short, if I can somehow be memorable also that would be awesome.
Time is short and I need your help. So leave a comment (one that is fit to print) and let's see if you can help me out. If not for me do it for the students.
Let me think, who spoke at my graduation, or my baccalaureate? Did I even have a baccalaureate? I am pretty sure I graduated ...
Monday Musings ...
I didn't quite make it in time to make this the normal Monday Morning Musings, as I stayed in bed longer trying to recover from a very devastating cold. The cold made yesterday very difficult. I was interrupted by coughing every other sentence during Sunday School. I asked the class to pray for worship, I tried not to sing during that part of worship and the Lord really helped as I did not cough at all until I finished.
Yesterday was a very good day. There was a tremendous spirit in the service and the singing was lively. We began a new series on relationships that will go through Father's Day. My wife helped preach the sermon and she did a wonderful job. Even though she went longer than she had told me she would take. I anticipated this and adjusted my part of the message. The series is titled "Yes You Can ... Have Healthy Relationships". Each week will deal with a principle for healthy relationships. Yesterday was on encouragement, with special emphasis on "building others up" especially with our words. This is so important because so few people get encouragement from anyone.
Our attendance was outstanding and a pleasant surprise. My wife and I had a special unexpected blessing as our oldest daughter was able to be with us for Mother's Day. That was great, even though I didn't get to enjoy it too much as I crashed as soon I finished eating lunch.
Here's hoping that you will find someone to encourage today.
Happy Mother's Day
My wife has had several Mother's Days in which to be honored. Over 30 of them in fact, and with each passing year I realize more and more how special her role of Mom, and now Grandma, is and was. She was so good when our children were still at home. She did so much to help mold them and yet to allow them to be the unique individuals that God created them to be. Nearly all of those years she was a stay at home Mom. Yesterday I read an article which said that according to the roles a Mom fulfills and the average pay in the workforce for those roles, a stay at home Mom is worth nearly $117,000 a year. Wow! Honey, I think I owe you more than I realized.
But of course a Mom's roles and influence cannot be fully measured in dollars and cents. This goes double for my wife. She did so much more than just fulfill the roles expected, she always went above and beyond. Often times this was not done in any way that brought her any attention, but rather helped develop and bring attention to her children. This is evidenced in many ways, one of which is the number of advice seeking calls she still gets today from our children, though they are on their own adults.
She loves the Grandma role and cherishes each moment that she gets to spend with them. She has driven 12 hours each way to spend a couple of days with them and sometimes to help out our children. I know that she wishes she could see them more often than she is able to, but they are always close in her heart, mind and especially in her prayers.
I know that she doesn't always feel this way, but she was, and is, a great Mom. She has sacrificed much through the years for her children, and her husband but that is for another post, and never flinched at any of the sacrifices.
This year I purchased a lilac bush for her. Don't worry about the surprise she will see the bush before she sees this post. She loves lilacs, so I got a bush and will plant it in the location of her choice. My hope is that she will enjoy it, the wonderful aroma of its blooms and the beauty of the lilacs themselves, and that each time she looks at it or enjoys its smells that she will be reminded of how much she is loved.
I know that it is not anywhere near $117,000, but it is given with great admiration and love.
Happy Mother's Day, I love you!
The youth from our churches, and churches of our denomination from 4 states, are gathered at our regional college for a 3 day event called "Celebrate Life". It is a time inspiration, challenge, competition, fun and displaying talent. There are art shows, music auditions, worship, concerts, team sports competition and many individual sports contests and much fun. My wife and oldest daughter are there helping judge the music auditions. It is a really fun event for the youth, maybe not so fun for the youth workers and judges, but a great annual event.
I love the name "Celebrate Life". I was thinking this morning (insert your own joke here about how difficult that must of been) about the name. It is great to have such a fun and uplifting event and the name is appropriate. But I was wondering, what if all of us decided to celebrate life regularly. Not with events and competition, but just the fact that we have life and should enjoy it.
Here's to celebrating life where you are and to encouraging someone else to recognize that life is to be celebrated. Why not lead the way? I think I will now go celebrate life and eat something that I really enjoy, in fact I might really celebrate and eat a lot of something I really enjoy.
How's Your Sight?
I went a number of years without contacts or glasses. Not because I had 20/20 vision but because I was getting by and didn't want to bother with either one. I was passing my eye tests for my driver's license, I could read okay and I had no trouble seeing to play ball, golf and many other things. Then...
I had an eye exam for a license renewal and struggled to see the letters and numbers, still passed but I knew my time was getting short to not have some type of help from my eyes. Then while waiting for a prescription with my wife I started putting on those $7 magnifier glasses that they have on racks at the pharmacy or grocery store. While goofing around with various "looks", I looked at a sign that had small lettering and realized that it was very clear to me at that moment. I believe my exact words were "Wow, is that how it should be?", or something like that.
I soon made an appointment with an eye doctor that I knew. Upon examination he asked me how I had been functioning without any glasses and observed that I must get a lot of headaches while studying. I assured him that I did indeed but that Tylenol in large quantities always took care of them. I left the appointment by picking out frames for my new BIFOCALS! Yes I went from nothing to high powered bifocals. That was about 8 years ago.
I thought that my sight was okay because I was used to it and had learned how to work around by deficiencies. The truth was I had some blind spots and until confronted with them I was happy to pretend everything was okay.
That got me to thinking about my life and especially my spiritual life. How often do I have blind spots in my life? How often am I happy to "pretend" that everything is okay, when in fact I have some real deficiencies? I am praying that the Lord would help me to see my own blind spots and that those who know me best would help as well. Just like my doctor friend did with regard to my eyes.
How about you? How are you doing with your blind spots? Are you aware and working to correct them, or are you happily pretending everything is okay?
Monday Morning Musings ...
The weather this Monday morning is very nice, sunny and much warmer than last week. We enjoyed a good day yesterday. There was a very spirit in all of our services. Our time of music in worship was very uplifting, I believe our people were encouraged by returning to our own leaders and style after our Revival services. We had some families return who had been gone for a few Sundays. There was a very good spirit of fellowship before and after each of the services. The attendance was very good.
Our time in my Sunday School class went well, with some great discussion about really reaching our community. About our fears and difficulties and the great needs that area all around us. I was encouraged by the honesty and depth of some comments.
Our time on Sunday evening was another great time. Again we sang with great feeling and shared well with one another. Our attendance was surprisingly good.
This week I will need to be spending much time in study and preparation for a new series of messages. Starting next Sunday I will be preaching a series entitled "Yes You Can ... Have Healthy Relationships". This 6 week series, from Mother's Day through Father's Day, will wrestle with areas of forgiveness, compassion, encouragement, leadership, perseverance and more. In addition for the middle 4 Sundays people will have the opportunity to be in a small group on Sunday afternoon or evening that deals with how to put these principles into practice in their current relationships. I am excited about this and fearful as I prepare.
Here's hoping you have a great week and that you realize that God loves you passionately.
Recent Reads ...
During our few days of camping vacation I did a fair amount of reading. Here is the results...
"CONFESSIONS OF A PASTOR" by Craig Groeschel - I finished this during vacation. This was an excellent book that I highly recommend for anyone. It deals with many things that everyone faces and he was leading the way in admitting that he struggles in some of these areas. It is not a difficult read and he does a nice job of laughing at himself to deal with difficult areas.
"OPENING DAY" (I can't remember the author's name) - I bought and read this during vacation. It is about Jackie Robinson's first year in major league baseball. In case you didn't know, Jackie Robinson was the first man of color to play major league baseball. It was a good read, but remember I love sports and history. I still think most people would enjoy, and if you like baseball you would really appreciate a lot of the book. It was not the best read, but it was very good. A good vacation book.
"BREAKING THE MISSIONAL CODE" by Ed Stetzer & David Putman - I began this book and am nearly finished. It starts very strong and the first half is excellent. It challenges your thinking about church and church structure, by focusing on reading your community as a missionary. The idea is that we must be aware of the area we are in, and/or the groups we are targeting to make a significant impact. The back third of the book slows down in my opinion, thus the fact that I didn't finish it. Don't worry I will finish it shortly.
I also did numerous crossword puzzles and read a Sports Illustrated. My wife and I played a lot of games and of course we fished a lot.
Here's hoping you find something meaningful to read this week.
P.S. I finished the book of Acts in my reading straight through the Bible.
I posted a couple of days ago about what signs we wear. In other words, what people with whom we interact know us by how we come across to them and often they see a "sign" around our neck reminding them of who we are and how they should interact with us. I received a few excellent, and honest, responses from some who read this blog. You can still respond with what is on your sign.
I mentioned in that blog that I have worn a sign recently that is not always my sign, but it is obvious to those around me that is my current sign and that I would share it later. Now it is later, is that valid logic?
Recently I am sorry to admit that my sign says "Upset". It seems that many things have upset me recently, therefore I am reacting in a way that certainly lets people know that I am upset. What I am upset about is not the issue, but rather that I need to deal with it and change my sign. Don't worry, I realize it is okay to be upset at times as long as it is for valid reasons and as long as I don't take it out on the wrong people.
I think that my natural sign might read, "Let's have fun" and "I care about you". Which is why my recent sign bothers me so much. It is not how I am naturally, nor how I desire to be. So here's to getting back to my natural signs. How about you? What is your sign say? I still want to know.